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Vizio SB3621 review: The king of the budget sound bars

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The Good The Vizio SB3621 offers excellent performance for an ultra-budget sound bar with great movie sound and toe-tapping music playback. The sound bar offers a decent selection of inputs including Bluetooth and will decode both Dolby and DTS. The sound bar and wireless sub feature excellent build quality and a seamless setup.

The Bad The LED display is not very helpful, and the WAV-file-only USB port is a little weird.

The Bottom Line The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best sound bar under $300 we have ever heard. If you want better TV sound, it's the new budget benchmark.

9.1 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Sound 8
  • Value 10

You could call it a revolution, or you could call it a trend, but something exciting is happening at the budget end of home theater. In the past you had to spend a lot of money to get great performance. But thanks to brands such as Elac, Pioneer and Vizio you don't have to spend thousands -- you barely have to spend hundreds.

At $150, the Vizio SB3621n-E8's sound belies its compact size and oh-so affordable price. We'd have high praise for this sound bar system even if it was double the price. It's easily the best sounding affordable sound bar we've heard to date.

There are no "features" to speak of, just a wireless subwoofer and Bluetooth, but at this price you don't really need any more than that. Alongside Google's Chromecast Audio, the Vizio SB3621n-E8 is now one of the best deals in home theater. You could even pair the two together, hook them up to a TCL Roku TV and you have a really cool wireless streaming AV system for about $500.

Stand aside Yamaha, JBL, Zvox and Polk: the Vizio SB3621 is now the go-to sound bar if you're paying anything under $300. This is the first sound bar we've ever reviewed that earned five stars, and easily deserves our Editors' Choice award.

36 inches of handsome

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Given its crazy-affordable price you'd expect something to be wrong with the Vizio right? Maybe the sub is made of plywood or the remote looks like it came out of a gumball machine. But no, you wouldn't guess how cheap the sound bar was based on its build quality.

Place the Vizio sound bar alongside the similarly priced JBL Boost TV and there's no contest at all. The JBL looks inexpensive, but the Vizio imparts a quiet sense of style. As the model number suggests, this is a 36-inch wide sound bar, which is relatively compact, and its 2.1-inch height means it won't likely block your remote control from working.

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The top of the unit features a minimum of controls. We found they could be a little sluggish but they're very useful if you lose the remote. At the front of the bar is Vizio's dreaded "display:" the volume level gauge is useful enough, but the series of dots it uses for input selection are nearly impenetrable. The remote control is a little confusing too, but at least it's a proper wand and not a plastic credit card like every other remote at the price.

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The included wireless sub doesn't skimp on quality. It's a well-built black and silver shoebox that comes with a ported 5-inch woofer. This unit helps the entire system get down to a claimed 50Hz, which is plenty for a system of this size and price.

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As far as connectivity the Vizio features two digital inputs -- a coaxial and an optical -- plus USB (for WAV playback and not MP3, strangely) and a 3.5mm jack. The sound bar also includes Bluetooth connectivity. It will decode both the vanilla versions of Dolby and DTS Dolby Digital and provides DTS sound modes instead of decoding, which is a little weird.

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